Temple Owls and Idaho Vandals Fight to Stay Relevant on Thursday Night Versus Navy Midshipmen and Troy Trojans

Navy Midshipmen (5-2, 3-2) at Temple Owls (3-5, 1-3)

Location: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA

Time: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, November 2nd

TV: ESPN

Line: Navy -8, O/U 53.5

History: Series tied at 6-6, Temple won last meeting in 2016 AAC title game

 

Idaho Vandals (3-5, 2-2) at Troy Trojans (6-2, 3-1)

Location: Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, Troy, AL

Time: 8:15 CT, Thursday, November 2nd

TV: ESPNU

Line: Troy -18, O/U 51

History: Troy leads series 3-1, won last season

 

There’s a good bit of upheaval and parity this season, and both the Temple Owls and Idaho Vandals would love nothing more than to take advantage of that. There’s an ever-growing chance that the Power 5 teams won’t fill all of their bowl slots, and someone from the G5 ranks needs to fill those slots, so why not these guys?

Temple gets the glory of going to a bowl game despite being in year one of a heavy reboot, and Idaho gets the glory of a bowl game in their last FBS season.

That makes this an extra crucial game. You want to be wary of putting too much importance on one single game, but anyone can tell you that 4-5 is significantly closer to bowl eligibility than 3-6, which adds a bit of extra weight to these matchups.

Navy Midshipmen vs Temple Owls

Navy has been getting banged up for the last few weeks, and it showed particularly glaringly on the defensive side of the ball. They struggled mightily in the second half which nearly cost them against Air Force and then did cost them against Memphis and UCF. They’re healthy now, or as healthy as a big pile of injuries can get with a week and a half off, which is basically peak form for this point of a season.

They have also spent the season facing offenses significantly more robust than Temple’s. Tulane ranks 41st in the country in Offensive S&P+, and that’s the second-worst offense the Mids have faced so far. They and Wisconsin are the only teams to date that have held FAU under 30 points.

Temple has improved, with back-to-back three-point losses, but their offensive woes have plagued them all season. The switch from Logan Marchi to Frank Nutile has produced more spectacular moments, but not a significantly better overall performance. A defense that has been well above average all season has done their job as best they can, considering they are paired with an offense that has little or no explosiveness and tends to fade late.

It also just so happens that the thing Temple struggles with the most is surrendering big plays in the run game, which Navy does rather well if you hadn’t heard. I think Temple has shown that their defense can handle offenses that are as good as Navy’s and won’t shut them down but will keep them reasonably in check. I just don’t think they’ll have enough offense to hang in for four consecutive quarters.

Navy will have a bit of extra motivation, as this gives them the chance to both become bowl eligible and wash the taste of last year’s conference title game out of their mouths

Navy 31, Temple 17

 

Troy Trojans vs Idaho Vandals

On paper, Idaho is a pretty easy team to figure out; as their offense goes, so goes their overall success. Their three wins this season have been their three best offensive performances of the season. They’ve also been wildly inconsistent, as their 2-3 record in one-score games hides a large amount of volatility.

  • Against Western Michigan, they got outscored 18-0 in the fourth quarter and lost by nine.
  • Against South Alabama, they only gave up seven second-half points, but still needed a touchdown with 13 seconds left to force overtime.
  • Against ULL, the Vandals gave up seven second-half points and lost by five.
  • Against Appalachian State the Vandals led 20-0 with 8:30 left in the third quarter and lost 23-20.
  • Against ULM, they led 31-7 with 8:30 left to play and needed a last-second goal-line stand to win 31-23.

The Vandal offense has had four games now where the offense vanished as the game wore on. One issue has been pass protection; there are only four quarterbacks who have been sacked more often than Matt Linehan, and only one has been sacked more frequently (sacks per dropback). The Vandals run better than they pass, but they don’t run it well enough to control the clock when they are ahead, and they don’t pass it well enough to not be in bad trouble when they get behind.

Troy, meanwhile, continues to perplex. In their first two conference games, they nearly blew a 17-point lead to New Mexico State and then nearly got shut out at home against South Alabama. Then they went on the road and beat the pants off Georgia State and returned home to gradually churn Georgia Southern into dust.

Troy’s offense has performed below the 56th percentile twice this season; in their loss to Boise (5th percentile) and their loss to South (14th percentile), while LSU was their only defensive performance that was subpar. That tells us that Troy’s offense is good enough to overcome a below-average defensive showing, but their defense isn’t good enough if the offense vanishes completely.

In both losses, turnovers and dropped balls meant the Trojan offense took forever to find a rhythm, and special teams goofs in the interim created a gap too wide to cross. I expect Idaho’s defense to keep this close early on, but much like before the offense will eventually lose what little steam it has and wind up on the wrong side of the bowl projections.

Troy 24, Idaho 13

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